Saturday, May 31, 2008

The NBA Is Back—With Carolina Pride

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/31/2008 No comments

I'm not going to take this opportunity to talk about the Charlotte Bobcats. Logically it is what I would do since this blog focuses on life in and around Charlotte. But the Bobcats haven't played a game in more than a month, so they're not relevant to this discussion. (One quick sidebar, though: I heard from a friend earlier today that she and some friends were waiting in line last night trying to get into Suite at Epicentre, uptown's newest club, and that the line was so long and exclusive that a couple of the Bobcats had to wait to get in. Come on now, they might not be winners but let's show our pro athletes more respect than that. Okay, back to the topic.)

The NBA is back. I've been saying that all season, and not that anyone necessarily disagreed with me, but I felt like this was shaping up to be the best season since the late 90s, when the NBA was at its peak. And this season hasn't disappointed, clearly with the two most storied franchises, the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, now set to square off in the NBA Finals.

But let's understand why this is, in case someone from the Bobcats happens to read this. To be successful and compete in the NBA today a team must have three great players. It used to be that two would suffice, but now it's three. Look at Boston, L.A., San Antonio, Detroit, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, and Denver, to name a few. There are a couple of exceptions like Cleveland—but they have Lebron—and New Orleans—but they have a great point guard and solid lineup all the way around. Having three great players is why San Antonio has won four championships in nine years, and is why Boston went from having the worst record in the Eastern Conference last year to having the best record and winning the conference this year.

Two of the Big Three—Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett—are from S.C., my home state.

The three at Boston—Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen—were labeled the Big Three since the beginning of the season and they have lived up to their name. I'm not a Boston fan, but I'm rooting for them and am especially proud of them because two of the Big Three are from my home state of South Carolina. Garnett is from Mauldin and Allen is from Sumter. (Quick sidebar: I remember reading an article in The State (S.C.) newspaper several years ago in which the writer talked about what if Garnett, Allen, and Jermaine O'Neal, who is also from S.C., had all gone to my alma mater, the University of South Carolina. Based on their ages, they could've all played there together for two years. Ahh, what could've been. Instead, Allen went to the University of Connecticut and Garnett and O'Neal went straight to the NBA from high school.)

In fact, Allen went to my high school, Hillcrest High in Dalzell, S.C.—well, I should say I went to his high school because he's older than I am. (He was my sister's prom date—I wonder if there's anything I can find and put on eBay.) There were some great times seeing him play on the high school level. Everyone then knew he would become the player that he is today. He's had a great 11-year career. As one of the greatest pure shooters to ever play, he has a 21-point career scoring average and by the time he retires he will likely be the NBA's all-time three-point leader (he's currently second behind Reggie Miller). With Allen coming to Boston during the offseason last year, he finally has been able to play in a large market so that the world can see his skills (playing in small markets like Milwaukee and Seattle, where he spent his first 10 years, doesn't get you much television coverage outside of your region). Also, all three of Allen's sisters live in Charlotte. So there's a lot of Carolina pride in these finals.

The NBA is back because over the past couple of years teams have made the trades and spent the money to build up their rosters. There are more great players in the league than ever, but there has long been a great, talented bunch of players. The difference now is front-office execs are doing a better job. And one other very important factor to the NBA's resurgence: the implementation three years ago of the rule that requires a player coming out of high school to play at least one year of college before being eligible for the NBA Draft, which is what put a stop to the unnecessarily high number of players being drafted straight out of high school. Most of them weren't ready so they were only taking up valuable roster spots from veterans. Now if the NBA will just increase that one year college requirement to two years then we'll continue to see the league improve, not to mention great improvements in the college game.

I'll be watching the NBA Finals with my South Carolina gear on.


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